DETROIT (WWJ) – What started as a fire investigation at a popular eatery in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood has taken a criminal turn.

The fire took off around 6 a.m. Friday at Katoi, a southeast Asian restaurant on Michigan Avenue at 17th Street.

Firefighters arrived on the scene quickly after the blaze started and extinguished the flames, which were concentrated on the building’s roof. No injuries were reported.

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Fornell said it appears a thief broke into the restaurant through the back door and set a fire to cover their tracks.

“It appears that there was a break-in. There’s a bag where they were stealing liquor — there was a bag of liquor by the back door, and so it appears that the fire was set to cover the break-in,” Fornell told WWJ’s Mike Campbell.

Arson investigators were also called to the scene to help determine a cause of the fire. Crews are using specialized equipment to detect for possible accelerants, indicating the fire might have been intentionally set.

Detectives are reviewing surveillance cameras to see if the videos hold any clues. Clothing and other items that were found scattered outside of the building were also recovered as evidence.

At this point, no arrests have been made.

Katoi was recently named the city’s Best New Restaurant in 2016 by the Detroit Free Press. “In less than a year, the out-of-this-world hotspot has bolstered Detroit’s dining profile nationally, but its local appeal is evident in the crush of would-be diners who wait hours during peak times for a coveted seat.”

It’s unclear if the incident at Katoi is related to a similar break-in Friday morning at Nemo’s Bar and Grill, nearby on Michigan Avenue. In that case, someone smashed through the bar’s front glass windows and made off with several liquor bottles. That suspect also remains at large.

Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and for the latest. 


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